Temperatures Friday night dipped to zero in Jerusalem and -10c on the Golan Heights, the coldest in 50 years. “We saw complete orchards ‘burnt’ by the freeze, and new banana and avocado orchards will have to be planted,” said a spokesman for Jordan Valley farmers. He estimated the damage at 30 million shekels ($7 million).

Homeowners in the Golan Heights woke up Saturday morning and saw their glass solar heaters broken into pieces by the freeze. Tens of thousands of Israeli homes have solar heaters on the roof, enabling them to use solar energy to heat water. If water in the house is not left running during a heavy freeze, ice bursts the pipes and the glass covering.

The freeze benefited Israel’s summer crops, such as cherries, peaches and nectarines, which need the cold temperatures in the winter.

Weather forecasters predicted temperatures would rise Sunday and Monday but that temperatures would remain colder than usual. Friday’s freeze was without precipitation, but a light drizzle is predicted in the next two days.

Two major rain storms have hit Israel this year, raising hopes that the Lake Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) will fill up by the end of the year. However, the national water authority already has pumped extra water from the lake in expectations of future rain. The authority doesn’t want to wait until the lake is so full that it will have to open dams to prevent flooding in the lakeside city of Tiberias.

The long-range forecast is for average or below average rainfall during the three-month rainy season.
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